White Men “Saving” Brown Women From Brown Men

Anyone looking around the United States for signs of unrepentant racism should forget about over-privileged American hustlers like Skip Gates, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama, and take a walk through the Pentagon, where our next murderous “operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan are planned, or the Congress, where endless billions are effortlessly appropriated for mass murder of Asian non-persons, even after nine long years of destruction and futility, or the White House, where a nauseating con-man and his tools promulgate ludicrous apologetics for racism and genocide.

And what does it mean that the trendiest, most up-to-the-minute excuse for the murderous and illegal American occupation of Afghanistan is now… “saving” Afghan women from the Taliban, which is exactly the same as “saving” Afghan women from Afghan men of any description whatsoever, since the only discriminator between an ordinary male citizen of Afghanistan and a Taliban militant is that whatever US soldiers kill is Taliban, and before US soldiers created the latest dead “insurgent,” he looked exactly like any other male citizen.

But we have an excuse for all that killing, we stupid fucking Americans who don’t speak any of the many languages of Afghanistan or understand fuck-all about any aspect of life in Afghanistan, and never took any interest in Afghanistan whatsoever until we needed a patsy for 9/11.

We have a wonderful excuse for mass murder in Afghanistan!

We’re “protecting” brown women from brown men.

You might think that this pathetic and obscene racist propaganda was first dreamed up by Laura Bush or Barack Obama or some other goddamned political trash, but you would be mistaken.

In September 2002 the Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod published a terribly prophetic article in American Anthropologist about a species of racist propaganda which had already served as an excuse for imperialist aggression all around the third world, way back in the glory days of so many European empires.

Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others

As Laura Bush said, “Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment… The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”

You heard it from Laura Bush, and would Laura Bush bullshit you? She used to be a librarian! She helped little girls check out books! (Before she became a mostly silent partner in top-down class war and genocide.)

But Professor Abu-Lughod had heard it all before.

These words have haunting resonance for anyone who has studied colonial history. Many who have worked on British colonialism in South Asia have noted the use of the “woman question” in colonial policies where intervention into sati (the practice of widows immolating themselves on their husbands funeral pyres), child marriage, and other practices was used to justify colonial rule. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has cynically put it: white men saving brown women from brown men.

The historical record is full of similar cases, including in the Middle East. In Turn of the Century Egypt, what Leila Ahmed called “colonial feminism” was hard at work. This was a selective concern about the plight of Egyptian women that focused on the veil as a sign of oppression.

No one doubts that very bad things have happened to women in India and Egypt and Afghanistan, and every example of brutality in Afghanistan for the last 30 years has been carefully catalogued by apologists for our senseless invasion and murderous occupation, and sanctimoniously attributed to the contemptible medieval theology of the Taliban and traditional Islam in general…

As if the glorious lifestyle which apologists for mass murder intend to share with the women of Afghanistan didn’t imply a few risks of its own.

For example, HIV.

While Americans are cursing the Taliban’s evil brand of Islam, and attributing every abuse of every woman who was ever abused in Afghanistan to the Taliban, suppose the Taliban turned the tables and attributed every gruesome case of HIV in the United States to the evil American brand of “secular humanism” or “Christian capitalism” or whatever other name you may assign to the mélange of greed, stupidity, and sanctimoniousness that passes for American culture.

The point of this analogy is… that’s how the Taliban see themselves, as protecting women against aspects of “modernity” like sexual promiscuity, and their “superstitious and primitive” religion may even inspire them to believe that sexual promiscuity may cause some godawful plague (like HIV) to descend upon the population!

So while “secular humanists” are bemoaning abuses in Afghanistan, the Taliban could just as well demand an answer to their questions, like…

How many lives has “secular humanism” sacrificed on the altar of “sexual freedom?”

In 2007, the CDC estimated that 583,298 people had died of AIDS so far, including 557,902 adults and adolescents, and 4,891 children.

And it’s just as accurate (and includes just as much context) to claim that all those lives were sacrificed on the altar of sexual promiscuity by “secular humanism,” as attributing every instance of abuse of every woman who was ever abused in Afghanistan to “primitive” Islam.

And yet this imperialist dogma excuses everything, and every time some lunatic in Afghanistan mutilates a woman, and every time Afghan children are murdered by American bombs and rockets and artillery, shit apologists for our murderous occupation smile their superior smiles and congratulate themselves for “saving” brown women from brown men.

But if you want to know what “colonial feminism” really means for the women of Afghanistan…

You can see it in James Nachtwey’s great photograph.

James Nachtwey

Note: Although I wouldn’t expect shit-head apologists for genocide to comprehend simple maps and statistics which illustrate the differential prevalance of HIV in Islamic and non-Islamic countries in the third world, other readers are referred to my diary on this subject, which I posted in December, 2009.